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The wrong champion for the safety net

In October, the Republican National Committee sent out a strange fundraising letter, ostensibly written by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), complaining, "The safety net for the poor is coming apart at the seams and no one in Washington seems to care."

To be sure, fundraising letters tend to throw caution to the wind when it comes to accuracy and honesty, but this was just bizarre -- the guy swinging the machete at the safety net shouldn't be the same guy complaining about the safety net "coming apart at the seams."

Five months later, though, the far-right Ayn Rand acolyte is still at it, arguing in the Wall Street Journal this morning that his right-wing budget plan "strengthens the safety net."

Matt Yglesias isn't buying it.

What Ryan is talking about here is Medicaid which offers health care coverage to the poor, to the disabled, and to an important class of elderly people. Currently the money for Medicaid comes from both the states and the federal government. States have to meet a lot of minimum coverage standards and get federal financial assistance for doing so, and in addition states have the option of securing additional federal monies for additional coverage if they're willing to kick in extra money of their own. Because health care is projected to grow more expensive over the next fifty years, the cost of this program is projected to go up substantially. One way of preventing that from happening is to just refuse to pony up the money, and make Medicaid beneficiaries get by with less health care. And that's what Ryan's plan does. On the one hand, it excuses states from their minimum coverage responsibilities. On the other hand, it reduces the amount of money that's available to give people coverage. Which is all about what you'd expect from a tax cutting Ayn Rand fan. Keep the money in the hands of the job creators who earned it rather than handing it out to the moochers and looters looking for a little free medicine. But please God almighty can we avoid referring to this as a measure that "strengthens the safety net" by empowering states to "tailor assistance to their specific populations"?

That need not be a rhetorical question.

Ryan intends to slash funding for food stamps, health care, education, and aid to the poor and disabled, while giving massive tax breaks to the wealthy. The least he could do while pushing such a callous agenda is stop talking about how much he cares about the safety net.